Scott Kazmir on track to return next week, but will his raw stuff come back?

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Scott Kazmir admitted to being “very surprised” by the Angels’ decision to place him on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Instead of beginning the season in the rotation Kazmir threw 77 pitches in a minor-league game and reported afterward that he felt “real good.”
Kazmir is scheduled to start another minor-league game Friday and then expects to rejoin the Angels with a start against the Yankees next week. “No doubt in my mind,” Kazmir said. “I felt I was ready but, at the same time, I didn’t get that many innings [during spring training]. This just gives me more time to work on things.”
Hopefully he gets healthy, because I’m very curious to see how Kazmir fares in his first full season with the Angels. His raw stuff appeared to be on the decline while in Tampa Bay, but after the Rays traded Kazmir and the $24 million remaining on his contract to the Angels at midseason he turned things around, flashing increased velocity while posting a 1.73 ERA in six starts.
Kazmir led the league with 239 strikeouts as a 23-year-old in 2007, and while he’s still just 26 no longer seems to have that type of upside. His strikeouts per nine innings have gone from 10.4 to 9.8 to 7.1 in the past three seasons and last year batters made contact on 82 percent of their swings against him after previously never topping 76 percent. Kazmir also averaged a career-low 91.1 miles per hour with his fastball, which is one full mph lower than in 2007.

Magic Johnson says the Dodgers will win the World Series

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Baseball, as we so often note around here, is unpredictable. Especially when it comes to the playoffs. You can be the best team in the land for six months but a few bad days can end your season once October hits.

In 2001 the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in the regular season but lost the ALCS to the Yankees, four games to one. In 1906 the Cubs won 116 games in a 152-game season and lost the World Series. In 1954 the Indians won 111 games in a 154-game season and lost the World Series. In 1931 the Philadelphia A’s won 107 games and lost the World Series.

More recently, with the advent of expanded playoffs, the chances for the team with the best record to win the World Series have been pretty dang terrible. Since the beginning of the wild card era, only five times has the team with the game’s best record gone on to win the World Series: The 1998 and 2009 Yankees, the 2007 and 2013 Red Sox and the 2016 Cubs. That’s it.

At the moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s best record. They’re 71-31 and sit 12 games up in their division. Their playoff chances are almost 100%. The above examples notwithstanding, if you had to make a prediction as to who might win the World Series, it would not be unreasonable to pick the Dodgers. Sure, you’d want to make sure they got Clayton Kershaw back by early September or thereabouts to make it a safer prediction, but it’d be a totally defensible pick. Maybe even the one most people make.

But it’d be the utmost in magical thinking to presume that one could make such a prediction with any degree of certainty, right? The Los Angeles Times, however, passes along some Magical thinking:

Magic Johnson called his shot Thursday night, and he wasn’t shy about it. The Dodgers’ co-owner did not hesitate when he predicted how the team would finish this year.

“The Dodgers are going to win the World Series this year,” Johnson said. “This is our year.”

The headline calls it a “guarantee.” I don’t know if I’d call it that — I think it’s more of a confident prediction — but it is a bold statement whatever you call it.

If I had to pick one team at the moment — and we could assume a healthy Clayton Kershaw — I suppose I would make them my World Series favorites too. And, yes, if I had an ownership interest in the Dodgers, I’d probably say what Johnson said.

But given the example of history, I think “field” would be a much safer bet.

Mariners trade Steve Cishek to the Rays for swingman Erasmo Ramirez.

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The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired reliever Steve Cishek from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for reliever Erasmo Ramirez.

Cishek had appeared in 23 games this season for Seattle after recovering from major offseason hip surgery. He’s 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA, with a 15/7 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He’s a setup man right now, but he has experience as a closer, saving 25 games for Seattle last year and as many as 39 back when he pitched for the Marlins in 2014.

Ramirez has appeared in 26 games for the Rays and has started eight games. He’s 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 55/16 K/BB ratio in 69.1 innings. This will be his second stint with the Mariners, having played for them from 2012-14.

Sort of a surprising deal given that both Tampa Bay and Seattle are competing for a wild card spot, but needs are needs.